First impressions after the conclusion of the VP debate tonight point to a victory by Joe Biden. The combination of slanting the debate towards foreign policy, Biden’s traditional strong suit, along with his assertiveness on guiding the discussion on the economy and his overall political experience in dispatching debate opponents sealed it for him on Thursday evening.
Paul Ryan was counting on the economy to defeat Biden tonight, but he did not get an opportunity to create a fully-fledged attack on those grounds against Biden. Biden's emphasis on the middle class, supported by his reinforcement on the Obama policies that have been focused on it, like Medicare and tax policy, helped stunt Ryan’s attacks. On his turn, Paul Ryan attempted to show that tax code reforms aimed at reducing loopholes would be sufficient to make up the fiscal gap without raising taxes, but the failure to go into specifics cost him the point when Biden pressured him on it. Given that the diametrically opposed numbers and data are obtained using methods and sources that the average voter does not understand, I will pass on judging a clear winner here, although I will side with Biden for the round for feeding off Ryan’s inability to go into the aforementioned specifics.
On military reform, Biden based his assertions on statements and evidence given by the command structure, where Ryan made no such attempt, or even an attempt to refute the evidence. Romney’s pledge for increasing the budget was not enough for Ryan to win that round.
Leading into the Middle East, Biden successfully defended the good relations between Israel and the USA that Romney has tried to paint as deteriorating, not in the least by his personal connection to Bibi, which was a powerful imperative that Ryan could not combat.
Explaining the differences between Syria and Libya on the matter of intervening militarily being an impossibility was also something Ryan could not adequately respond to, beyond saying that we should have done what Biden suggested, but only earlier.
Afghanistan should be left to Afghans – that was the essence of what Biden said, along arguing that what we’re doing there leads to that goal. Again, Ryan failed to justify a military presence for gains that he did not specify. Joe Biden’s specialty and experience in foreign policy really came through here.
Biden is the clear winner of the debate – his ability to control it came from his experience and he showed that on Thursday.
For full coverage of the vice presidential debate, including real-time analysis and play-by-play, see here.